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Mental Health Around the Country

Just as certain parts of the country face higher levels of drug abuse than others, certain areas struggle with mental illness at a higher rate. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) tracks variations in the prevalence of mental illness by state to assist in national prevention and treatment efforts.

In the past year, 44.5 million adults experienced some form of mental illness, while 10.4 million experienced a serious mental illness. SAHMSA defines mental illness as any mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in the past year that met DSM-IV criteria (the mental health manual used by clinicians). If a disorder substantially interfered with one or more major life activities, it was classified as serious mental illness.

Based on data from over 150,000 adults, SAMHSA uncovered the following geographic mental health trends:

  • Rhode Island has the highest rate of mental illness (24.2 percent) and serious mental illness (7.2 percent).
  • Maryland has the lowest rate of mental illness (16.7 percent).
  • Hawaii has the lowest rate of serious mental illness (3.5 percent).
  • Overall, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, Arkansas and Idaho have the highest rates of mental illness and serious mental illness.
  • Overall, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maryland and Alaska have the lowest rates of mental illness and serious mental illness.

Mental Health Around the World

Although the level and severity of mental illness varies state to state, research clearly shows that Americans suffer from more mental health disorders than other countries. The World Health Organization reports that 27 percent of adults in the U.S. are managing some form of mental illness. And the picture gets grimmer. The WHO data indicate that nearly half (47.4 percent) of Americans will face a mental health disorder during their lifetime, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD or substance abuse.

Thinking about packing up and calling a new country home? Don’t rush to New Zealand, France, Lebanon, the Ukraine or Colombia, as these countries follow right behind our lead. Instead, consider China, Japan, Israel or Nigeria, where mental health disorder rates are the lowest in the world.

Why Do So Many Americans Suffer from Mental Illness?

Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, America is facing an epidemic of mental illness. Why? Are Americans really more troubled than others, or are we simply more in tune with our mental health?

Some speculate that materialism and emphasis on appearances and wealth have led Americans down an empty path. Others believe our willingness to “pop a pill” – and doctors’ willingness to prescribe them – to treat any ailment makes us more likely to identify and seek treatment for a mental health disorder. Still others point to continually expanding diagnostic criteria as a reason for more people receiving a mental health diagnosis.

Whatever the reason, our mental health is every bit as critical as our physical health. At least half of the time, mental illness begins by age 14, yet on average people wait at least 10 years to get help – and 20 percent of Americans never seek help at all, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Left untreated, mental health disorders become more severe and more difficult to treat.

Mental illness is a global problem but help is available right here at home. While medication is one option, studies have shown that a combination of medication and counseling (particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy) is most effective. Mental health treatment is also available on an outpatient or residential basis. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health problem, don’t suffer in silence. Mental illness is prevalent in the U.S., but so is highly effective treatment.

Posted on October 30th, 2011
Posted in Mental Health

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